Six Hundred Rally in Helena 'For the Love of Montana'
On President's Day, the Sierra Club teamed up with other environmental and citizens groups to host the largest legislative event of the year in Helena, the state capital. That's Sierra Club volunteer Gita Wohlsein and Club organizer Brad Hash, above, at the rally.
The event, For the Love of Montana, was organized "to help and preserve Montana's clean and healthful environment and the laws that protect it." The Montana Sierra Club scheduled its annual Lobby Day to coincide with the rally.
"Freezing temperatures, gray skies and several inches of newly fallen snow were no deterrent to the more than 600 Montanans who poured onto the state capitol lawn to rally for clean air, clean water, clean energy, and to challenge the clot of anti-environmental bills now appearing before the legislature," says Brad Hash of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.
Fellow organizers Mike Scott and Bob Clark worked with Hash to mobilize members and volunteers from around the state. "It's important that we stand strong not only for state laws that protect Montana's natural heritage," Hash says, "but also for EPA's role in regulating the toxins spewing from industrial sources such as our giant Colstrip coal-fired power plant."
Signs reading "I support the EPA," "Clean Energy Now," and "Protect MEPA" (Montana Environmental Policy Act) were peppered through the crowd. Later that afternoon, ralliers swarmed the capitol halls to encourage state legislators to scrap the dangerous bills and champion strong environmental laws and regulations.
Meanwhile, a select group of Club members and volunteers spent the day learning how to lobby on behalf of the environment. That's this year's group with organizer Bob Clark at right, above. Participants received a training from Anne Hedges of the Montana Environmental Information Center, then engaged House and Senate representatives and the governor, and sat in on floor votes before joining the rally at lunchtime.
Among the most egregious bills currently in the Montana legislature:
▪ HB 550, which declares that EPA regulation of greenhouse gases is void in Montana. The bill was approved on February 11 by the House Federal Relations, Energy and Ecocommunications Committee.
▪ SJ 10, a resolution urging Congress to support fossil fuel development, eliminate EPA's greenhouse gas regulations, and place a two-year moratorium on all new EPA regulations.
▪ HB 593, a bill that could lead to an annual statewide increase in mercury emissions of about 800 pounds. It would eliminate the requirement for Montana's coal-fired power plants to comply with Montana's mercury control regulation even thought they have been complying with the rule for over a year.
Key Sierra Club volunteers who helped organize For the Love of Montana include John Wolverton, Jonathan Matthews, Whitney Byrd, Gita Wohlsein, Rachel Jennings, Ann Meachtlen, Rod Jude, and Steve McArthur.
"This was a great day for Montana and the critical but obviously ever-tenuous protections that seek to keep this state The Last Best Place," says Hash.
Among the Club's partner groups in putting For the Love of Montana together were the Northern Plains Resource Council, Montana Environmental Information Center, Alternative Energy Resources Organization, Montana Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation, and Montana Audubon.